Thursday, December 13, 2018


July 23, 2011  
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Which James is which?

If you are confused about which James is which in the New Testament, you are not alone. Bible scholars can’t figure it out either.  Most of the confusion centers around two different views of what “brother of Jesus” means.  It can either mean “cousin” or “brother”.  Those who believe that Mary was ever-virgin, believe that James, the brother of Jesus, was actually a cousin of Jesus. The following biographies assume that Jesus had biological brothers and sisters.

James, the brother of Jesus, with Joseph, Simon and Judas

[See: Mt 13.55; Mk 6.3; Jn 7:5; Acts; 12:17, 21:18; 1 Cor. 15:7; Gal 2:9]

James was regarded as an Apostle [Gal 1:19] but not one of “The Twelve”. This James was the First Bishop of Jerusalem. He presided over the First Council of Jerusalem [Acts 15].  Paul met with James before being arrested [Acts 21:18]. He is the author of the Epistle of James.  According to Hegesippus (via Eusebius),  this James was also known as “James the Just”. James the Just was martyred ca. AD 62 when he was thrown from the pinnacle of the Temple and bludgeoned to death.  His Feast Day is October 23rd

James, the son of Alphaeus

[See: Mt 10:3; Mk 3:18; Lk 6:15; Acts 1:13]

James the son of Alpheus (or Cleophas, Cleopas, Clopas) was one of the Twelve.  He may have been the brother of Simeon, who became bishop of Jerusalem in AD62 succeeding James, the brother of Jesus (above).  Some have also suggested that he and Matthew were brothers. He was also known as “James the Less” (either smaller or younger)  And some scholars suspect he may be the disciple “Cleopas” (or Clopas) mentioned in Luke 24:18.  According to tradition James the Less was crucified in Egypt.   His Feast Day is May 1st.

James the son of Zebedee

[See: Mt 4:21; Mk 1:19-20]

James the son of Zebedee and Salome [Mt 27:56; Mk 15:40] was one of the Twelve. Salome may have been Mary’s sister [Jn 19:25] making James & John first cousins of Jesus.  He was John’s elder brother [Mt 10:2, 17:1; Mk 3:17, 5:37].  James and John were called “Sons of Thunder” [Mk 3:17].  They were Galilean fishermen with Peter and Andrew.

This James was one of the intimate trio (Peter, James and John) involved in these events:

1. Jairus’s daughter raised from the dead [Mk 5.37; Lk 8.51]

2. Transfiguration [Mt 17.1; Mk 9.2; Lk 9.28]

3. Mount of Olives [Mk 13.3]

4. Garden of Gethsemane [Mt 26.37; Mk 14.33]

5. Also accompanied Jesus to the home of Simon and Andrew, with John [Mk 1.29]

John does not name his brother James any where in the fourth Gospel.  James’ death was prophesied by Jesus [Mk 10:35-40; Mt 20:20-23], and he was the first of the 12 to be martyred (AD44).  James was killed by the sword (beheaded) by Herod Agrippa 1 [Acts 12:1-2]  He is also known as James the Greater (larger or older).  His feast Day is July 25th.  He is the Patron Saint of Spain, AND the Saint for whom our Cathedral was named!

Reference: Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Edited by Elwell and Comfort, and History of the Church by Eusebius.

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